Climate change must be a higher priority

Recent news about climate change has been all bad and devastatingly so.

The Arctic ice cap is retreating at record rates. We had the hottest July on record. And one expert after another is blaming increasing temperatures on human-caused global warming.

Yet, despite the red flags, our political conversations during this presidential election year have largely skirted this important issue.

We were glad to hear the Obama administration last week announced strict new fuel economy standards. Those are projected to cut in half the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by cars and trucks by 2025.

Itís a step forward, but others must follow. The evidence cannot be ignored.

The rapidly shrinking cap of ice that sits on the North Pole is not just a problem for polar bears and walruses, it will accelerate the warming process. Thatís because the light-colored ice reflected sunlight that a darker-colored sea will absorb.

According to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, the ice cap has shrunk to a record extent and likely will continue to do so. An area of ice equivalent to the size of South Carolina is melting each day. Thatís about twice the rate observed since 1979.

ďAs far as the larger scale, when youíre heating up a region of the world, compared to what it used to be, youíre changing the balance of the climate system,Ē NSIDC research scientist Walt Meier said during a conference call. ďNow, your air conditioner is losing coolant, so to speak. Itís not as efficient as it used to be.Ē

Itís bad news, and it deserves more attention than it has gotten.

Earlier this month, a study co-authored by NASA climate scientist James Hansen concluded that a jump in the number of very hot summers can only be attributable to human-caused global warming.

Hansen linked several severe heat waves and droughts to global warming via statistical analysis.

In an op-ed piece that appeared in The Washington Post, Hansen wrote: ďThere is still time to act and avoid a worsening climate, but we are wasting precious time.Ē

There is no doubt climate change is a polarizing issue that pits climate change doubters against each other in what often are heated exchanges.

However, the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication recently reported that 72 percent of Americans think global warming should be a very high, high or medium priority for the president and Congress. Those sentiments, by the way, cut across party lines.

The dangers presented by a warming planet clearly have captured the attention of the public.

Itís the responsibility of our elected officials to craft policies at home and forge agreements abroad to limit the greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating global warming.

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